Greta Thunberg, age 16, has been in the headlines recently because of her environmental activism. She is bringing together young people worldwide to demonstrate that they care about what is happening to the earth and that they want leaders to work toward improving the environment. She inspired millions of people to march in solidarity around the world joining her “Fridays for the Future” campaign. In addition to the marches and rallies, Greta spoke to the United Nations and other political organizations about the need for better climate control and regulations.
The issue of climate control and fight for better care for the earth is gaining great amounts of traction, especially with young people worldwide. The Catholic Church has released different documents and written about this subject in encyclicals for the past few decades focusing on the need for humans to care for the earth since it is God’s great gift to us. Below you can find some ideas of how to guide the young people you work with in understanding what is going on and why it matters to us as Catholics. Feel free to take these ideas and make them your own for a class or youth night!
Activity: Protect the egg! The object of this game is to keep the egg from breaking when dropped from the top of a ladder. The group should be broken up into even groups and given supplies. They will use those items to create a cushion of some sort around the egg to prevent it from breaking when it falls. Supplies: Paper, tape, string (can be substituted for what you have available) Time: 10 minutes to create the egg’s protection then it is time to drop!
Videos breaking down the Church and the environment: Video from Catholic Relief Services explaining why we need to care for creation: https://youtu.be/wSnXuCxiHXE Video from Catholic Agency For Oversees Development (UK) gives a summary of Laudato Si by Pope Francis: https://youtu.be/o3Lz7dmn1eM
Ideas that form Catholic thought on care for our common home:
Creation is a gift from God. What does that mean?
It isn’t a chance event that we have all that we have here on earth. God created it before man (Genesis creation story) and intended it for all of humanity. Which means that we have a duty to keep creation in order that all men in all nations have the opportunity to use what the earth can give and what God can give us through what He created.
We have a duty to “till and keep” the land (Genesis 2:15)
Because creation is a gift to us we have to keep it healthy.
We cannot just take from it without replenishing it in someway. If we only take and take we will inevitably run out of the natural resources available to us.
Pope Francis talks about this in Laudato Si, especially in regards to water. We think we have this abundant resource but if we use too much for too long then we will run out! We don’t have an unending supply of fresh water, so we need to figure out where we use too much and try to only use what is necessary. (Chapter 1 of Laudato Si talks about objective facts regarding what is happening to our home).
We have dominion over the land, not full control. Only God has full control. As good stewards of creation we have to treat this gift well.
We have built a consumer culture and throwaway culture that tells us we can get more and more then just toss it aside when it no longer satisfies us.
As a society we are producing more and more goods at an increasing rate. In some cases, the introduction of new technology is super beneficial for the production of goods, but the fact that we can have whatever we want with an almost instant gratification and then just use it until it satisfies us is not what was intended. Many nations are in this stage of superdevelopment where more is being consumed than what is necessary.
If we demanded less by wanting less (wanting only what is necessary) we would get better care for the created being and other humans. All of creation, humans and animals and land, would be used as they were intended when God created them.
Bring the discussion back to the egg drop game. We have a duty to build a society that protects the earth because it is God’s gift to us and we have a duty to care for it. That demands our action in different ways to limit our use to what is necessary. We only have one egg, the earth, and we want to protect it the way we wanted to protect the egg we were given.
Conclude this introduction to why we have a duty to care for our common home and break up into small groups and discuss some questions to guide the youth’s understanding.
What is the greatest gift you’ve ever received? How did you treat such a great gift?
Where are places in your life where you see yourself using more than you need?
What can you personally do to better care for the creation? Where are places that you can be more active in our call to be good stewards? (Cutting back on buying new things or cutting back on using natural resources?)
Ideas going forward for your parish or youth group or individual:
Have a clothing drive to give to a local Catholic Charities or homeless shelter
Start a garden at your church with the youth group! Use the food grown there to give back to the community and/or encourage youth to take some of it home to their families.
Have a service day cleaning up a local park or area of town.
Further reading to guide understanding on the topic of the Church and environment: